19 December 2012
Brussels, Belgium

GEA Briefing for the European Commission Directorate-General for Climate Action 

On 19 December, GEA authors briefed the European Commission Directorate-General for Climate Action on GEA  energy transformation pathways towards 2-degree temperature stabilization.

gea event brussels

gea event brussels


Ged Davis, GEA Co-President

Nebojsa Nakicenovic, GEA Director; IIASA Deputy Director

Prof. Dr. Detlef van Vuuren, Lead Author, GEA Chapter 17, Energy Pathways for Sustainable Development, and professor in Integrated Assessment of Global Environmental Change at the Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University 

Event Report

Ged Davis introduced the GEA, describing the product as an integrated picture of the energy landscape, allowing the analysis to highlight the co-benefits of policies designed to achieve climate and air quality goals as well as sustainable energy aims.  The 2000-page document was prepared and reviewed by energy experts from around the world, with at total of over 300 authors and 200 reviewers; over 6000 reviewers’ comments were incorporated in the final report.  The GEA is not unlike the IPCC in terms of its range of knowledge and its goal of determining an expert consensus on critical issues, but the crucial difference is that energy was the entry point, rather than climate.

Nebojsa Nakicenovic offered a presentation summarizing the results of the GEA analyses.  He explained that the GEA set up normative goals for a sustainable future, regarding global energy access, limiting greenhouse gas emissions to a 2 degree rise, and improved air quality. 

With respect to global energy access, the GEA estimated that $40 billion per year over 40 years could resolve all access problems in Southern Africa and India, an outcome that fed into UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) goal of energy access for the entire world by 2030, along with doubling efficiency and doubling renewable energy use.  GEA analyses demonstrate that these goals are aspirational, but not impossible.  Meeting these three goals would lead to a global temperature rise of 3 degrees.

The GEA also presents global Carbon budgets and reserves, and explores technological options and the investments required to meet the normative climate goals.

Detlef van Vuuren’s presentation focused on the key energy scenarios presented in the GEA, which uses two different model systems (MESSAGE and IMAGE) to define pathways that meet key energy, climate, and air pollution/health impact goals.  He emphasized the requirements for meeting the EU’s 2 degree targets.  He contrasted the GEA pathways – which develop pathway scenarios that meet the GEA goals -- with the analyses in the UNEP-GAP report, which is a deterministic formulation based on scenarios in the literature.  He explained the GEA analyses of energy policies and the ramifications of different constructions of pathways.  The GEA focus on outcomes, with variations in the construction of policy and technology pathways, particularly with respect to efficiency scenarios, offers more flexibility, and more choice, in meeting climate goals.  This contrasts with analyses that focus on “demand side”, which limits choices.  The

The questions and discussion highlighted the areas in which GEA offers singular insights:

  • GEA defines energy security in terms of infrastructure as well as energy imports, emphasizing technology for storage as well as diversification of supply and desire for fewer imports.
  • GEA compares the benefits of small increases in investment in access-poor areas, where costs tend to be large for poor quality energy services.
  • GEA emphasizes the critical need for transformative changes in energy use, including the need for engaging society, to revolutionize Carbon intensity and efficiency in areas related to agriculture, biodiversity protections, industrial production, building design and retrofitting, and urban planning.  These steps are crucial.
  • GEA analysis considers the “rebound effect” in which efficiency increases lead to increases in use of energy.  In developing world, the increased us is a positive feature; in EU, regulatory mechanisms are needed to limit energy increases, as the “rebound” has led to difficulties in achieving progress.  With appropriate mechanisms (more than just price function), both residential and industrial use can lead to great savings.
  • Biomass is a complicated, controversial problem, with numerous factors that can determine the circumstances in which biomass use is appropriate as a means of reducing Greenhouse Gas production.  In some areas bioenergy is an attractive power source that, when regulated in combination with food, biodiversity, and other land use, can be sustainable.  GEA concluded that about 80 exojoules (which is about double present) would be sustainable.
  • Bioenergy models relied only on land use models, but next generation models might examine economic/food price consequences, and migration possibilities.  Demographic factors can vastly increase complexity.
  • Energy access analysis builds on historical patterns, including the integration of rural and urban areas, and the development of nations and citizenship that depends on the economic capacity that increased energy and water access can provide.  Different models are appropriate for different areas – countries like Vietnam successfully develop large power plants and power grids; in Sahara decentralized sources are more appropriate.
  • Some scenarios depend on “negative emissions” and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – and the required technology pathways are also analyzed.  GEA does not consider geoengineering, though that is part of IPCC scenarios.
  • Shale and other unconventional gas resource scenarios are becoming more important; like CCS, the environmental issues and flexibility with respect to timeframes for transitions are important issues that will be crucial for the next areas of analysis.

Agenda, Speaker Bios, and Attendee List (PDF)

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Last edited: 08 October 2013

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